Thursday, September 24, 2020

Muslim women defend al-Aqsa despite ban

By Cath And - September 17, 2015
Section: [Main News] [Features]
Tags: [al-Aqsa]

Photos by Catherine Anderson.


Recent clashes at Al-Aqsa mosque come one week after two civilian Muslim groups were banned from entering the mosque compound.  


The Mourabitat is an all-female group of worshippers whose mission is to protect the mosque from Jewish extremists. The group was labelled an illegal organisation by Israeli authorities on Sept. 8 and barred from entering the site.


Israel has occupied East Jerusalem since 1967, however, Jordanian King Abdullah II has maintained authority over Al-Aqsa through the Islamic Waqf which administers the site.


The area is holy to both Islam and Judaism. For years, the status quo has allowed for Muslims pray at Al-Aqsa mosque and Jews at the Western Wall, which runs along the side of Al-Aqsa compound.   


Many Jewish Israelis advocate for this status quo to be changed to allow them to pray within Al-Aqsa. Some groups, such as The Temple Institute, wish to see the site partitioned and a Jewish temple erected within the compound.  


Israeli forces entered Al-Aqsa compound on Sunday, claiming they were there to “prevent riots”, and have maintained a high security presence in the Old City since. They have also reportedly been allowing Jewish groups to tour the site in addition to preventing many Muslims, such as the Mourabitat, from entering.  


A group of 27 Jewish settlers entered the compound Monday, accompanied by Israeli soldiers.  


Yousef Hamdan, who works in a shop in the Old City, spoke to Palestine Monitor about what he has witnessed this week. He described hundreds of soldiers entering the compound, beating people, damaging the mosque, and preventing many Muslims from entering.  


He went on to say that Al-Aqsa is a place for Muslims, and by entering the compound, “it’s clear that Israel is not looking for solutions.” He stated that many people are expecting an escalation of violence, or even a third intifada, as entering Al-Aqsa is a “red line” for many Palestinians.  


Another nearby shopkeeper told Palestine Monitor that he has witnessed the Israeli soldiers allowing Jewish groups into the compound to pray, but preventing many Muslims from entering. He believes this will continue for a some time.  


On Wednesday, Israeli forces were seen in large numbers at many of the entrances to Al-Aqsa compound. The security forces were checking the identification of those trying to enter, and preventing many Muslim worshippers from going inside.



At one entrance, a group of women were placed within police barriers by the Israeli officers to separate them from Jewish groups who were on their way to enter the site. As the groups passed by, the women chanted “allahu akhbar.”


One woman, whose name has been withheld to protect her identity, spoke to Palestine Monitor outside Al-Aqsa compound. She described arriving at the mosque one month ago and being told she was not allowed to enter the mosque to pray. She was surprised to find her name on this blacklist along with 15 other women; she now believes there are over 100 on this list.


She explained that this is not the first time this has happened to her and the other women she was with, but usually they are given papers outlining the timeframe of their ban. This time, however, they have simply been shown a list by the police, and are unaware how long the ban will last for.  


The bans usually take place during Jewish holidays, when these groups’ access is restricted in order to prevent them from from disrupting the visits of Jewish groups, but this time she fears the ban may be extended.


Though unable to cross the blockade of the mosque imposed by the Israeli army, the Mourabitat, along with their male counterparts, the Mourabitoun, have maintained a presence in the surrounding area. Some members of the Mourabitat have been wearing vests displaying the words “I’m banned from Al-Aqsa mosque.”  


Al Jazeera reports that Yousef Mukhaimar, the head of the Mourabitoun committee, has described the groups’ presence in the area by saying “our resistance is really about our existence here. We show the Israelis that we are here, we belong to this land, and we are just not going anywhere, period.”




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